Announced during a press event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the new wallet app offers many of the same features as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) passbook app for the iPhone, which the company first introduced for its smartphone’s iOS 6 operating system last year. The Samsung Wallet allows users to collect a number of virtual goods such as coupons, tickets and membership cards, according to the Verge. Also like Apple's Passbook, the Samsung Wallet has customizable time and location-sensitive notifications to alert users to things like changes in boarding times or the accrual of store credit or fire sales.
The main question for any ambitious feature such as a mobile payment system, however, is how many third-party e-commerce or online retail services will integrate their products with the software. Apple Passbook was launched with a starting lineup that included popular services like StubHub, TicketMaster and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX). Luckily, Samsung seems to understand the need for a good stable of app developers and announced a host of third-party partners, which include Hotels.com, Lufthansa, Expedia, Walgreens, Major League Baseball, Advanced Media and Booking.com. The company said that it plans to bring in more partners once the app becomes available.
Samsung is also making the Samsung Wallet API available to the public come May of this year, the company said. Currently, the API is only available in its beta version and for select partners such as the third-party developers listed above.
Surprisingly, Samsung didn’t choose to capitalize on the main advantage it would seem to hold over Apple’s iPhone when it comes to mobile payment systems: tap-to-pay features made possible by near-field communication, or NFC, technology that Apple has avoided, including in its mobile devices despite its introduction by many competitors like Samsung. And this is also despite Samsung announcing a partnership with Visa (NYSE:V) this week as well, a partnership explicitly intended to encourage faster adoption of tap-to-pay e-commerce.
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The Verge reports that Samsung explained the absence of any tap-to-pay features from the outset by saying that retailers were still more comfortable with traditional point-of-sale systems like barcodes than NFC technology, particularly because any new e-commerce system would require new infrastructure to support it.